What luxury travel sees in blockchain – and why DayAway embraced the NFT

Randy Ginsburg
February 8, 2023
“Their email address unlocks rewards beyond the DayAway marketplace” — Martha Walsen, co-founder, DayAway

Hospitality loyalty programmes are often hindered by friction and fragmentation. DayAway aims to fix this by giving their holders access to a plethora of luxury hotels and experiences through a single membership. And with innovative email-based token-gating, members won't even need a crypto wallet to use it.

Martha Waslen and her husband prepared their first pitch for DayAway in 2020, inspired by a longing to travel during the pandemic. Before any suggestion of the 2021 NFT boom, the pair had already envisioned using the technology to redefine what it means for people to travel the world. Two years into building the platform, their team is finally bringing this vision to life. And on a grander scale than they had ever imagined. 

Birthed during the depths of the pandemic, DayAway puts a new spin on travel, tourism experiences, and luxury memberships. Most hotel experiences and traditional loyalty programmes from companies like American Express or the Ritz Carlton operate independently from each other, each with their own discount codes, rules, and regulations. And whilst private travel clubs offer discounts and upgrades at thousands of hotels, not only must booking be done through that third party, but it shuts out the hotels who are not partnered with the travel club.

DayAway users can book a wide range of exclusive experiences at luxury hotels, including the highly coveted rooftop pool at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

DayAway aims to eliminate these frictions, letting consumers receive exclusive benefits from a collection of hotels and experiences, gathering discounts and upgrades from multiple sectors under a single membership. Users can book a wide range of luxury experiences, ranging from private food and beverage tastings to access to the highly coveted rooftop pool at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

After validating their proof of concept following their launch in 2021, DayAway has now executed their long-planned switch to a web3 membership model. With two tiers of membership, one open to anyone for $500, and another priced at $2,500 and limited to 500 members, it is the latter of these that is the focus of DayAway’s web3 initiative.

“Their email address unlocks rewards beyond the DayAway marketplace.”

Martha Walsen, co-founder of DayAway

In contrast to a traditional membership programme, DayAway’s most exclusive membership is signalled by an NFT, which provides holders with access to a range of further VIP benefits, like memberships at the adventure travel company Heli and the private travel club Little Emperors, providing access to upgrades and discounts at 4,000 hotels globally.

At the heart of the platform lies DayAway’s own email-powered token-gate technology. Similar to a standard token gate, where only certain holders can ‘log-in’ by connecting a wallet that holds a specific NFT, DayAway connects each token to an email address and lets members access their membership benefits simply by signing in with an email.

DayAway’s VIP benefits include memberships at Heli, the luxury adventure travel company.

“We mint a token for them, hold it in our custody, and link it to their email-backed DayAway account,” Waslen explains. “From then on, their email address, backed by our token, unlocks rewards across an entire spectrum of websites beyond the DayAway marketplace.” What that points to is a major advance in how the world can use NFTs: members can become holders of DayAway's Founder’s Key NFT, and experience the benefits, without ever interacting with a token, blockchain, or a crypto wallet.

By affiliating token ownership with a member’s email address, hotels and providers who integrate DayAway’s technology into their systems will become empowered to verify DayAway members via their email, which Waslen explains will remove the need for those partners to worry about using the blockchain, or to worry about distributing personalised discount codes that might go astray.

Waslen contrasts the seamless promise of web3 with how users typically access American Express travel benefits in Singapore, where members receive a physical coupon book with discounts to redeem at hotels and spas. Having worked with luxury lifestyle brands for almost twenty years, she understands how the experience can be improved.

“Right now, redeeming travel experiences is very clunky. There’s a lot of friction for the hotel to tackle in order to fulfil those kinds of rewards,” she explains. “Instead of cardholders having to pick up the phone to call each provider, and each provider needing to cross-check this coupon code for expiration dates, the benefits can be validated automatically, right on the provider’s website using the email-backed token gate.”

That applies beyond travel and hospitality and to every aspect of the consumer economy. For example, DayAway could integrate their technology into retailers’ ecommerce stores, allowing users can create an account with their email to receive exclusive benefits like free shipping on the basis of their DayAway membership, and where those benefits could be changed instantly and frictionlessly. Hypothetically, this sort of technology would let Amazon Prime members verify their Prime membership to access benefits on platforms beyond Amazon’s own websites.

But the impact of recording memberships as NFTs stretches far beyond the DayAway platform, or even the partners who can recognise a DayAway email address. NFT memberships are viewable by anyone on the blockchain, rather than being the private information of the travel club. For holders who do want to interact with the blockchain themselves, they can verify their DayAway membership to any other platform by connecting their wallet. In turn, this makes it easy for any provider to offer a benefit to DayAway members, without requiring DayAway's approval.

“Using a token gate allows us to build a cross-vertical loyalty programme that hasn't existed before.”

Martha Walsen, co-founder of DayAway

Those benefits will be on full display in 2023. Waslen plans to offer major web3 communities the chance to organise DayAway memberships for their thousands-strong holders, who will be able to access DayAway’s platform based on their ownership of the community’s NFT.

On the platform, they will have access to curated programming around major web3 events like NFT NYC, Token 2049, and Art Basel. DayAway will provide each community with discounts and upgrades on organised room blocks, along with IRL experiences at its hotel partners. In doing so, DayAway can seamlessly offer a taste of its services to target customers via the NFTs that those customers hold.

DayAway is just the start of how Waslen wants to use NFTs to redefine membership programmes, reduce friction, and open the door to further innovation and partnerships that providers may have previously thought not possible. “Before, you had one loyalty programme with this hotel group, one with this airline, with this retailer,” Waslen says. “Using a token gate allows us to build a cross-vertical loyalty programme that hasn't existed before.”

DayAway plans to offer membership deals to major web3 communities, which would give holders access to a range of benefits tailored around web3 events, such as hotel upgrades during NFT NYC.
DayAway plans to offer membership deals to major web3 communities, which would give holders access to a range of benefits tailored around web3 events, such as hotel upgrades during NFT NYC.
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Randy Ginsburg
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Randy is the founder of Digital Fashion Daily and Third Wall Creative, a web3 marketing agency. Straddling the worlds of retail and emerging technology, Randy has worked with many companies including nft now, Shopify, and Touchcast to create compelling and educational web3 content. Previously, Randy worked at Bombas, developing the most comfortable socks in the history of feet.